The topic of diversity, equality, and inclusion is everywhere these days, and rightly so. Employers finally realise that diversity in their workforce isn’t just about looking good. It’s essential for improving productivity and avoiding costly staff turnover. Quite simply, diversity is good for your business.

In our previous posts on this topic, we’ve talked about the four main pillars of diversity and we’ve given you some suggestions on how to talk about diversity in your workplace.

Talking about diversity issues is essential, but it’s not enough. We need to take action to improve representation across the workforce, so we’re examining how bias gets into the hiring process — and how to go about reducing it. We’re going to start with interview bias.

Eight tips to help you reduce interview bias

1. Understand your bias

No matter how hard we try, we can never fully eliminate bias. Our brains are hardwired to take information-processing shortcuts, which produce unconscious, implicit bias.

To take a (relatively) innocuous example, you might have a slightly negative reaction if you meet someone with the same first name as your childhood bully.  You wouldn’t reject their job application as a result of it, but you might unconsciously give more weight to negative information about that person as a result.

There are ways to tap into what implicit biases you might have. Implicit bias tests, such as this one from Harvard, can help you understand associations and expectations that you didn’t realise you had.

2. Plan your interviews

The more structure you have for your interviews, the harder it is for bias to creep in. Having a plan or pre-set interview template ensures that you ask each candidate the same questions. Some templates are more comprehensive than others, and it is important you have the freedom to ask candidates to elaborate or clarify ambiguous comments.

Ensuring that each candidate has a similar experience in the interview process means that each candidate has an equal chance to shine.

3. Share the interviewing burden

The more people we involve in the interview process, the wider the range of voices we hear. Including interviewers with a range of different backgrounds can help to minimise bias.

One way to increase the number of people interviewing each candidate is to offer a panel interview. This option is efficient and reduces the amount of time you are requesting from each applicant. 

Panel interviews may advantage some groups over others. However, for less confident applicants, panel interviews may be so intimidating that their performance suffers.

Consider offering short, one-to-one interviews with several different interviewers instead. This can also help involve a variety of team members in hiring decisions.

4. Recruit from further afield

The rise in remote working offers massive potential for recruitment. The world really is your oyster, and companies that restrict their marketing efforts to areas within commuting distance are going to miss out.

Having a global team living and working within vastly different cultures is about as diverse a workforce as you could hope for. We’re not going to pretend that global hiring is always easy, but remote workers are an incredible resource. 

If you’re thinking of hiring more remote workers, check out how easy it can be to hire globally with crooton.

5. Have a standardised scoring system

We’ve already discussed the importance of asking all candidates the same questions, but you also need to make sure that you know what you’re looking for in their answer.

A standard rubric or scoresheet keeps your interviewers’ minds focused on what matters to your company and encourages them to focus on tangibles rather than more nebulous ideas around ‘culture fit’ or general demeanour.

Try to relate your scoring rubric to the job description you created. What part of the job description does each piece of the rubric relate to? How are you evaluating a candidate’s ability to carry out each part of the job description? If the two don’t match up well, one (or both) of them might not be fit for purpose.

6. Make time for candidates’ questions

Reducing bias in the interviewing process isn’t just about making sure that you’re evaluating all candidates fairly. It’s also essential to make sure that each candidate feels equally comfortable about working for you. 

You may have the fairest interview panel in the world, but if diverse candidates feel unwelcome while being interviewed, you won’t get the diverse teams you’re hoping for.

Ask candidates for any questions they may have about working for your organisation and, importantly, treat the questions they do have with respect. 

If a candidate asks about diversity (as many millennials and Gen Z will), take a second to really think about your answer. If you don’t know immediately, tell them that you’ll investigate and get back to them — and make sure you do.

Respecting candidates’ questions sends a clear message that you’re keen to listen to everyone’s point of view. You can reinforce this message by asking candidates about their experience of the recruitment process and whether they have any suggestions to make it more accessible.

7. Give diverse candidates the information and accommodations they need to succeed

Diverse candidates may benefit from extra information or accommodations around their interviews, but they often don’t want to feel singled out. Consider the range of needs you can meet or accommodations you can offer and ensure that all candidates are aware of them.

These might include:

  • Mentioning where the unisex bathrooms are
  • Letting candidates know about additional parking options for those with mobility issues
  • Offering a quiet place to wait for interviews for neurodiverse candidates
  • Mentioning a creche is available
  • Highlighting diversity ‘champions’ or similar individuals who can provide information about being a member of a particular minority within your company

If you’re not sure what would make a difference, ask. Talk to diverse members of your current workforce and ask what would have made the process easier for them. Have conversations about what you can offer as part of your outreach efforts.

8. Ask the right questions

The purpose of an interview isn’t to get a rundown of your candidates’ professional lives. It’s to help you understand them as people and to be able to predict how well they will deal with the situations they are likely to encounter working for you. So ask the questions that can help you find out.

Asking open-ended questions about how a candidate would approach a problem or how they have dealt with a challenge in the past can help you understand their problem-solving style and thought patterns.

Remember that diverse candidates may have less experience with these kinds of interview questions, so try to be explicit about what you want to know. Don’t just ask, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Explain that you’re trying to understand where your company fits into their career goals and what skills they are hoping to master while they’re with you.

The quest for diversity and inclusion in the workplace doesn’t end here. At crooton, we’re determined to help make work fairer and more inclusive for everyone. Join us on this mission by checking out our blog for more information about recruitment best practices, employer branding, and the state of diversity and inclusion in the UK workplace. And get in touch with the crooton team for help tackling bias in your recruiting process.